This Week

Issue: "Just say clean needles," May 9, 1998

Dialoguing to death

While Washington lawmakers are trying to pass a tough new bill to decrease religious persecution overseas, the liberal National Council of Churches is taking a different approach. Last week the NCC flew in seven religious leaders from around the world to spread the gospel of group hugs. Their message: The Wolf-Specter Freedom from Religious Persecution Act would hurt ecumenical efforts in their countries. The NCC representatives argued that by imposing sanctions for outrages such as killings and kidnappings of Christians, the Wolf-Specter bill would make it harder to "dialogue" with the perps. "We have to increase the dialogue," insisted a representative from Pakistan. "The church is making efforts toward improving interfaith relations that would be hampered by the passing of this legislation." Said an Indonesian representative: "We have to increase the dialogue. If [Wolf-Specter] passes, it will jeopardize the whole relationship." "Dialogue" to religious liberals has long meant downplaying the distinctives of Christianity to make it more palatable to unbelievers. Rather than forcing foreign governments to recognize the right of Christians to be different, the NCC prefers that believers learn to blend in and get along.

24 hours of fame

The United Nations would like to wish WORLD readers a merry World Television Day and a most happy World Day for Water. And please, enjoy the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The world body has so many special-interest groups to appease that its calendar is sprinkled with 44 different holy days of globalism. From International Day of Tolerance to World Meteorological Day, almost any politically correct cause can feel appreciated for 24 hours. World AIDS Day gets a lot of press, but who commemorates World TB Day or World No-Tobacco Day? For that matter, who knew that the Palestinians alone get two days with long bureaucratic names: the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and the International Day of Innocent Child Victims of [Israeli] Aggression? Nobody can put a price tag on all these non-events, although records do show that the World Health Organization spent $100,000 for thousands of posters in Third World countries promoting 1998's World Health Day. Nor does anyone know how many U.S. tax dollars pay for liberal love feasts like the International Day of Women and the International Day of Older Persons. Many of these holidays are celebrated only with a dull speech by a diplomat-followed, of course, by a cocktail party. Others are used as publicity stunts. Last October, some poor Swiss citizens were selected to read out human-rights declarations at the UN's European headquarters in Geneva to celebrate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The UN even took to the Internet to figure out what to do with Human Rights Day. Someone suggested decorating trains and buses with quotations from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Someone else wanted to print the entire document on the back of the world's cereal boxes. The cereal idea didn't fly, perhaps because the very idea of children around the world eating Kellogg's Corn Flakes violates the spirit of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

World in brief

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Free as a bird
Birdwatchers said they were happy to sight an American robin after being held captive more than a month by guerrillas in Colombia. Americans Louise Augustine, 63, a former nun from Illinois; Peter Shen, 35, a cell biologist in New York; and Todd Mark, 32, a flight attendant from Houston, were released by guerrillas last week and returned to the United States. A fourth birdwatcher, Tom Fiore, a 42-year-old bicycle repairman from New York, escaped earlier. The former hostages said they left behind seven other hostages in the camp, including a German and an American. High cost of speaking out
Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera of Guatemala held an April 24 news conference to release a report on atrocities committed during his country's civil war. The report, titled Never Again, relied on thousands of interviews by church workers over three years. It blamed the army and its paramilitaries for 80 percent of killings during a war that ended in 1996. Two days later, on April 26, the bishop was murdered. He was found in a pool of blood in the garage of his San Sebastian home after apparently being bludgeoned to death with a cement block. Not ready to "close the file"
The United Nations Security Council voted to extend sanctions against Iraq, ignoring threats from Baghdad that it would disrupt future arms inspections in reply. U.S. ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson acknowledged that the United States faces eroding support for unlimited sanctions against Iraq, which have been in place since 1990, but he objected to calls to "close the file" on some weapons inspections. At the same time, the UN's chief arms inspector for Iraq said experts discovered active mustard gas last month in artillery shells found at an Iraqi munitions depot in 1996.

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